Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, whom the NFL initially suspended for the season for violating its substance-abuse policy, had 120 receiving yards on eight receptions in his team's 26-24 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Nov. 23. The league reinstated Gordon on Nov. 17.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon could not have come back at a better time.
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Gordon amassed 120 yards on eight receptions in the Browns' 26-24 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Nov. 23. Despite quarterback Brian Hoyer throwing for three interceptions, Cleveland eked out the win with a last-minute field goal, per Kevin Jones of the Browns' official website:
"In a critical, must-win, late November game, the Cleveland Browns were able to overcome two critical fourth-quarter turnovers and rally for a 26-24 win over the Atlanta Falcons on a 39-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff on the last play of the game at the Georgia Dome.
"It is the first time since 2008 that the Browns have won two straight games on the road. At 7-4, it also helps them stay within a half game of the Bengals in the AFC North.
"Cundiff kicked four field goals but his last one proved to be the difference. After a Matt Bryant 53-yard field goal with 49 seconds remaining gave the Falcons a one-point lead, Brian Hoyer was 4 for 7 for 61 yards on the game-winning drive. Josh Gordon, who had eight receptions for 120 yards in his first game back, had a 24-yard reception on the third play of the drive to move the ball into Falcons territory with 24 seconds left. A 15-yard reception to Gary Barnidge and 11-yard completion to Miles Austin then moved it into range for Cundiff.
"Hoyer was 23 of 40 for 322 yards and bounced back from tying a career-high with three interceptions, including two in the fourth. The later interception led to the Bryant field goal
"The running game posted 162 yards and averaged 5.6 yards per carry. Isaiah Crowell, who had two touchdowns, had 88 yards on 12 carries and was the engine who propelled the Browns when they needed to move the chains in the second half. Terrance West posted 62 yards on some tough running up the middle. With extra attention being paid to Gordon, Andrew Hawkins had five receptions for 93 yards.
"The Browns were unsuccessfully knocking on the door for the entire afternoon, so much so, it seemed like Cleveland was going to leave Atlanta with a sour taste in their mouth.
"In the second quarter the Browns forced two turnovers -- a Joe Haden interception and a Paul Kruger sack-fumble, both in Atlanta territory -- but Cleveland walked away disappointed with two Cundiff field goals.
"In the third quarter, a Hoyer crossing pattern to Andrew Hawkins turned into a gorgeous 40-yard dash from the receiver. But again, Hoyer was sacked on third-and-goal by Kory Biermann and another drive was halted in its tracks. The frustration was mounting on the Cleveland sideline.
"With another drive hanging in the balance late in the third quarter, Crowell -- in front of family and friends in his home state of Georgia -- took control. On second-and-7, Crowell careened his way to the right, to the left, shaking several Falcons would-be tacklers on his way to a 27-yard touchdown run -- his seventh of the season. The score put the Browns up 23-14.
"On a day where Matt Ryan was 27 of 43 for 273 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, Atlanta's run game was basically irrelevant and held to 2.7 yards per carry. The Browns' defensive effort was at the forefront. Kruger added another sack in the third quarter and Ahytba Rubin notched one of his own. Craig Robertson and Chris Kirksey filled in admirably for the injured Karlos Dansby."
ESPN Cleveland Browns reporter Jeremy Fowler points out Gordon played "nearly 70 percent of offensive snaps" in the first half against the Falcons:
"The Cleveland Browns worked all week to quell expectations for Josh Gordon, but Pro Bowl players tend to find their way onto the field.
"Based on an unofficial snap count (stress: unofficial), Gordon played 25 of the Browns' 36 offensive snaps in the first half Sunday against the Falcons, or 69.4 percent. During the week, Browns coach Mike Pettine stressed he didn't want to give Gordon too much, too soon, noting that getting into football shape takes time. Gordon missed the first 10 games of the season after failing a drug test.
"Gordon isn't looking too rusty after one half of play, leading the team with 70 yards on four catches, taking a pair of screen passes for 22 and 19 yards. On the first series, Gordon played for three snaps, sat for two, then returned as a target on a deep passing attempt from Brian Hoyer.
"Look for more of the same from Gordon in the second half -- a heavy workload in a crucial game that the Falcons led 14-13 at the half."
According to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport (via NFL.com's Dan Hanzus), the league reinstated Gordon on Nov. 17. Hanzus says Gordon "has been cleared for normal activities without restriction."
The 23-year-old Gordon has caught for 2,571 yards and 14 touchdowns on 145 receptions in 31 career regular-season games for the Cleveland Browns, per ESPN stats.
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